Are you suffering from back pain?? Many have found that Yoga can loosen, stretch, re-align, and strengthen this neurological area. Lower back pain, also called lumbago, is a symptom of several different problem areas that are usually centered in your ligaments, muscles, nerves, and/or vertebrae. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 75 to 85 percent of Americans will experience back pain during their lifetime.
Why let progressively worsening back pain hold you back, especially when 20 or more minutes of Yoga can stabilize and restore your mobility.
1. Cat and Cow Pose (Stretches and Loosens Back)
Bitilasana (bee-tee-LAHS-uh-nuh) Bitil = cow asana = pose
Provides a gentle warm-up sequence. When both are practiced together, it helps to stretch and loosen your muscles, as well as, prepare it for other poses and activities.
Try it: Start on your hands and knees, transition into Cat pose by slowly pressing your spine up and arching your back. Hold for 5-10 breaths and then move to Cow by lowering your belly towards the floor, pressing your shoulder blades back and lifting your head. Transitioning back and forth from Cat to Cow helps move your back into a neutral position by relaxing your muscles and easing tension.
Repeat 5-10 times, flowing smoothly back and forth from Cat into Cow and vice versa.
2a. Upward-Facing Dog (Loosens, Stretches, and Strengthens back)
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
(OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-anna)
urdhva = upward mukha = face svana = dog
This pose stretches your spine and chest while also strengthening your arms, shoulders, and wrists. By strengthening your upper body and chest, it improves posture. The upward-facing dog stretches your abdomen, back, and torso; which also stimulates your digestive organs for more efficient absorption. This pose also firms your thighs and buttocks, helping to alleviate sciatica. This pose also holds the benefit of energizing and rejuvenating your body by providing therapeutic relief from fatigue.
Go for it: Start on your hands and knees with your hands flat out in front of your shoulders. Pressing your torso back, gently raise your knees/legs away from the floor and lift your lower body slightly away from the floor. For an additional hamstring stretch, gently push your heels toward the floor. Hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths, and repeat the pose five to seven times.
2b. Downward-Facing Dog (Straightens and Elongates back)
(AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna)
adho = downward mukha = face svana = dog
It’s typically one of the most recognizable yoga poses, and for a very good reason. The downward-facing dog pose re-aligns and elongates your cervical spine and strengthens the hamstrings, core, and back. Because your heart is higher than your head in this pose, it is considered a mild inversion (less strenuous than other inversions (ie: headstand) and yet holds the benefits such as relief from headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and mild depression.
Regular practice of this pose can improve digestion, relieve back pain, and help prevent osteoporosis.
Go for it: Begin with your entire body face down with arms at your side, bring your hands to your sides (aka pushup position just closer to your hips). Stretch your palms flat against the mat and spread your fingers outward as you get up to all fours. Exhale as you both tuck your feet forward and lift/straighten your knees up and pull your thighs higher and farther skyward while straightening your upper posture. Press the floor away from the base of your fingers and work on straightening your elbows while rotating and aligning your shoulders forward.
3. Pigeon Pose (Stretches and Strengthens Hip Rotators)
(aa-KAH pah-DAH rah-JAH-cop-poh-TAHS-anna) eka = one pada = foot or leg raja = king kapota = pigeon
The pigeon pose stretches your hip rotators and flexors in Both directions. It may not seem like the most obvious pose to treat an aching back, however, stretching your piriformis muscle (located behind the gluteus maximus and over your sciatic nerve) can provide relief for people with sciatic nerve pain (ranged within the 4th & 5th lumbar spinal nerves and the first three sacral spinal nerves).
Go for it: While in the downward-facing dog position draw your left knee forward and turn it inward so your left leg is bent and near perpendicular to your right one; lower both legs to the ground. You can simply keep your back right leg extended straight behind you, or for an added hamstring stretch for the more experienced yoga practitioners, you can carefully pull your back foot off the ground and in toward your back. Hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch to the other side, and repeat as needed.
4. Locust Pose (Straighten and Elongates back)
This pose provides the groundwork for deeper backbends, while it is a seemingly simple pose, is actually a lot more challenging than it appears at first review. It is often used in preparation for other poses, such as Bow, Upward Bow, and Wheel Pose. Practicing this pose consistently will teach you the proper alignment necessary to deepen your backbends as you progress further into yoga.
This pose increases flexibility throughout the entire back of the body, including the legs, buttocks, spine, and all of the muscles surrounding your upper torso. Working the upper back muscles improves posture and helps relieve fatigue and stress that is caused by slouching.
Go for it: Start by lying on your belly with your legs straight. Place your arms at your sides with your palms up and your chin gently resting on the floor. Slowly and simultaneously lift your head, shoulders, and legs off the ground. this will help strengthen your back while keeping it safe and stable. Hold for about 5 breaths (you can increase this amount over time).
5. Bow Pose (Strengthens Upper Back and Shoulders)
Go for it: Start by lying on your belly with your legs straight. Place your arms at your sides with your palms up and your chin gently resting on the floor. Exhale and bend your knees/lower legs upwards, bringing your heels as close as you can to your buttocks. Reach back with both hands and take hold of the front of your ankles (not your feet). Inhale and simultaneously Lift your heels away from your buttocks and Lift your thighs away from the floor. Done correctly, this will pull your upper torso off the floor. As you continue lifting the heels and thighs higher, press your shoulder blades firmly inwards.
6. Standing Forward Bend Pose (Stretches Back and Hamstrings)
When done correctly, this pose is an intense stretch, particularly for the back and hamstrings. Keep in mind, it should also be relaxing and comfortable. Be cautious to not to push too hard, because the more you relax, the deeper your stretch
Go for it: Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart and your knees are loose, not locked. While you exhale, hinge at your waist and bend forward, reaching toward the floor. Don’t worry if you can’t quite reach to the floor at first; just stop wherever your hamstrings feel a comfortable stretch. Repeat the pose five to seven times. On the last bend hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths.
7. Low Lunge with Backbend (Stretches Back and Hamstrings)
anjaneya = “praise” or “salutation”
Creates flexible strength. Promotes stability in the front and back of the torso. Stretches the muscles of the back, arms, chest, groin, lungs, neck, and shoulders. This one strengthens and stretches the entire back.
8. Extended Triangle Pose (Strengthens and Increases Flexibility)
utthita = extended trikona = three angle or triangle
The Triangle is one of the first poses yoga students learn. The goal is to condition and lengthen your spine and a relax your neck/shoulders. This pose also increases the flexibility and strength of your legs and lower joints (ankles, hips, and knees) while providing a position to stretch your legs while extending the back sideways.
9. Child Pose (Straightens and Strengthens back)
The picture looks like your bowing, however, the child’s pose is an active pose that helps re-align and elongate your back. The added benefit is that it also provides stress relief whenever your feeling spent or exhausted.
Go for it: Start on your hands and knees with your arms stretched out straight in front of you, then sit back so your glutes come to rest just slightly above your heels. Hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths, and repeat as many times as needed.
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